Inside Hammer: Book Review

Inside Hammer
By Jimmy Sangster
Published by Reynolds & Hearn, 2001.  160 pages.

insidehammerSangster had already written autobiography, Do You Want It Good Or Tuesday?, which was very interesting, but he felt that he didn’t cover enough about Hammer that his fans probably wanted. With this new title, Sangster sticks to really what he’s famous for, and that is working with the Studio that Dripped Blood! Sangster covers every film that he worked on with the famous studio; from his first film Dick Barton Strikes Back as a lowly assistant to his last film Fear in the Night as writer, producer and director. Here are some my favorite parts of the book:

About bringing back Frankenstein back from the dead:

Hammer had sold the sequel to Curse of Frankenstein, then called The Blood of Frankenstein, on the poster alone. When Sangster was giving the job of writing it, he told Jimmy Carreras, the head of Hammer, that he was worried about writing it since he had killed the Baron off in the first movie. Carreras’ reply was, “You’ll think of something,” as he was ushering out of his office.

About the dialog or lack there of, in Dracula Prince of Darkness:

Sangster talks about the controversy about Dracula not having any dialog in the movie. Christopher Lee has stated that he refused to speak the lines he was given. Sangster said that in the original Horror of Dracula, the character only had a few lines in the beginning of the movie since no one knew that he was a vampire at the time. “But once his true colors were revealed he never opened his mouth again. This time, we know exactly who he is when he first appears. He is Count Dracula, king of the vampires. And vampires don’t chat. So I didn’t write him any dialog.”

About writing horror pictures:

While talking about the film Crescendo, which Sangster re-wrote, he quotes from Alfred Shaughnessy’s autobiography, a fellow screenwriter who originally wrote the screenplay, about writing this movie. Shaughnessy said that he wrote it against his better judgment…”when money was short and I had to accept whatever was on offer to pay the rent. Some writers call this ‘whoring’.” Sangster replies “I was a writer too. I always called it making a living.”

I really enjoyed reading this book. While Sangster admits that his memory is fading fast, he still remembers and reveals some great stories about his days working for the famous studios, including having to avoid the advances from Bette Davis on a couple of different occasions. It also is interesting to read about how the movie industry worked back then, when a movie finally comes out, the screenwriter might already be working on his second or third script after that one, and not even see it. It comes highly recommended for fans of Hammer studios, horror fans in general, or just up-and-coming screenwriters.

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